Bonding to Existing Concrete

posted by Bob

Fact: Fresh wet concrete does not normally bond well to existing dry concrete. Do you remember elementary school where one of the subjects on which you were graded was “plays well with others”? Concrete would have gotten an F. There is nothing in basic portland cement that will act as a bonding agent. Portland cement concrete works well in mass and provides great compressive strength but not bond.

Concrete is marvelous stuff but in time it will deteriorate. When it does, you either have to patch it or replace it. Assuming that it is structurally sound the least expensive alternative is to patch it. However patching it requires some attention to detail or your patch will not last. So that you don’t waste too much time or money, we should probably discuss what “structurally sound” means. If your sidewalk has either heaved or dropped at almost every joint, repairing it will not provide a long-term solution. The slabs are likely still moving. If your slab has so much sand and gravel on the surface that despite sweeping and sweeping and squirting and squirting it just keeps coming back, don’t waste your time on repairs. If you have multiple cracks that run so deep that they appear to run through the slab, a repair would only be temporary. The solution to all of these problems involves a jackhammer and bags of one of the Sakrete concretes.

Since this discussion is on the best way to bond concrete, we will assume that your slab is good.

There are a variety of Sakrete concrete repair products available to fix concrete that has begun to deteriorate. However, without good surface preparation, none of them are going to perform satisfactorily. All loose sand, gravel, dirt, leaves etc. must be removed. This can typically be done with a garden hose and a good nozzle. Tough areas may require a pressure washer or mechanical abrasion. The two toughest areas to cover are those with oil and tree sap. Both of these will work their way down into the concrete. Simply washing the surface isn’t sufficient. If the stains do not run too deep, you can chip away the concrete using a hammer and chisel. Don’t forget the goggles (not just glasses) as this process will throw concrete all over the place. Also, keep your thumb out of the way. If the spots are too large or too deep for this to be practical, you may need a sealer to cover the stains before patching.

There are two basic methods for bonding a portland cement based product to existing concrete; 1) chemically and 2) mechanically.

Let’s discuss the mechanical approach first since it is really used in both approaches. The most effective way to ensure a really good bond is with a scratch coat. This is simply a very wet coat made up by mixing the repair product with water. Mix up a small amount of the repair material to a soupy consistency. You don’t need to measure the water-just turn the stuff into slop. Then, using a gloved hand or a rag, smear the material onto the area to be patched. Just think finger painting from kindergarten. The technique is about the same. Apply pressure to ensure that as much as possible is shoved into the nocks and crannies. You only need a thin coat. It is not necessary for this scratch coat to dry. By the time you get the repair material mixed it will be ready. Then mix up additional repair material to the proper consistency and apply over this thin scratch coat.

The chemical approach involved mixing up a liquid bonding agent that helps bond new concrete products to old. Products like Sakrete Top'n Bond and Sakrete Flo-Coat already contain polymers that greatly improve the bond of portland cement and should NEVER be used with a liquid bonding agent. I know in America bigger is better but it’s just not so with these products. Other products like Sakrete Sand Mix and Sakrete Fast Set Cement Patcher benefit from the use of a liquid chemical bonding agent such as Sakrete Bonder/Fortifier. When using a liquid bonding agent, paint the bonder onto the existing concrete and allow it to dry until it is tacky. This usually takes only a few minutes. Then apply the repair material. Just as in the process described above, after the bonder has become tacky apply a scratch coat and then apply the repair material. The most effective way to ensure that the bonding agent gets into the existing concrete is to apply it directly using a brush or rag. It can be sprayed if you happen to have a sprayer. Although the directions say that you can use it as part of the mix water, direct application works better.

If you are doing a large area and a scratch coat isn’t practical you will need to spray the surface with water before you apply the repair material. On a warm day, the existing concrete surface will be hot enough to suck the water out of the repair material. In addition, some concretes are quite porous and will rob water from your repair material. If too much water is lost into the old concrete there will not be enough water to hydrate all of the cement particles and a lower strength material will be the result. Concrete simply will not bond to all substances. Paint, oil, glue from old flooring tiles are just a few. You must mechanically remove these materials if you want the job to last.

Once the job is complete, you can do a quick check to see if the bond was successful. Wait at least 24 hours and then tap “gently” on the patch using a hammer or some other dull object and listen for a hollow echoing sound. If you just get a dull thud then the material has bonded well. If you get a hollow sound, the material has not bonded and will crack in time. Which means it is back to the beginning of today’s topic. Here is hoping your concrete work comes across as a dull thud (not like some of my party guests) rather than a hollow endeavor.

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571 USER COMMENTS

My basement was converted into a living space and my house was built on a hill so part of the basement acts as a retaining wall and the other is open to free space. The wall that is against the earth has a large footing (reminds me of Chernobyl's Elephant foot). It looks horrendous and I would like to pour over the existing concrete to create an attractive shelf or counter top as it were. I would remove it but due to the structural necessity of the footing I cannot. The surface is uneven as is the side walls of the footing. I feel like I should send a picture but I'm hoping that is not needed. Do you have any products you can suggest for something like this? Or would it be better to call?
- Emily
Friday, February 12, 2016 at 11:53 AM

Shawn, for a lasting repair you must first properly prep the area by removing any unsound material, dirt, dust, grease, oil, paint, etc. The surface should be mechanically scarified to ensure a good bond. A bonding agent such as Sakrete Concrete Bonder and Fortifier should then be applied as a primer. Sakrete Sand Mix modified with Sakrete Bonder and Fortifier (as an admixture 1:1 with water) is recommended. Sakrete Sand Mix is used for repairs from 2” down to ½” and cures to 5,000psi.
- Chris Technical Services
Monday, January 25, 2016 at 12:56 PM

Kathy, preparation is key for a lasting repair. First, properly prepare the surface by removing any bond breakers such as paint, stain, loose material, dirt, dust, oil, etc. Grinding down to a solid substrate is recommended. Sakrete Flo-Coat is a polymer modified resurfacing material that can be used from ½” down to a feathered edge in a flowable consistency. Flo-Coat is easier to use for larger areas and has excellent adhesion.
- Chris Technical Services
Monday, January 25, 2016 at 12:15 PM

I am part owner of an old commercial building that was originally a garage. The building is 3,500 sf with concrete flooring poured in sections. The floor has old oil stains, gouges and some cracks but is intact. We are considering a coating of some sort which could be left exposed or covered with other flooring. Do you have a product to suggest?
- Kathy Webster
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 5:56 AM

I am building a new home and the concrete contractor poured the basement floor. The floor measures 93" down from top of wall on one end which is correct and shows it is a 3" floor the other end measures down 94.5" and where I can see (around tub drain box) the floor is only 1.5" The concrete contractor wants to use a bonding agernt and pour 1" on good end to 2.5" on other end. My question is will this last? Is it proper? would I be better of tearing up old concrete and repour all new to the 3.5" it is supposed to be. Floor is over 2" foam.
- shawn
Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 8:10 PM

Dan, since this is a unusual application we recommend contacting a company that specializes in this type of remedial work. Unfortunately we do not offer a product that will suffice for this type of application.
- Chris Technical Services
Monday, January 11, 2016 at 1:45 PM

I need to pour a concrete pad in a basement over the top of some 1950's tile that have without doubt asbestos in them. Everything is tight on the existing concrete floor and I would simply like to 'bury' the old tile under a new 1 inch or less concrete pour over. The concrete under the tile is sound as well. This is a finished and heated living space. Thanks. Dan
- Dan Huebner
Sunday, January 10, 2016 at 9:21 PM

Nikolay, we suggest using Sakrete Top ‘N Bond for this repair. It is important that you start by properly prep the area by removing any bond breakers such as paint, stain, loose material, dirt, dust, oil, etc. Sakrete Top ‘N Bond is a polymer modified resurfacing material that can be used from ½” down to a feathered edge. This will allow you correct the slope and blend the new material with the existing. You may apply additional ½” lifts once the first layer has reached “thumb print hard”.
- Chris Technical Services
Thursday, January 7, 2016 at 9:42 AM

Ernest, the slope is required and provides proper drainage. First, properly prepare the surface by removing any bond breakers such as paint, stain, loose material, dirt, dust, oil, etc. Grinding down to a solid substrate is recommended. We recommend Sakrete Flo-Coat which is a polymer modified flowable resurfacing material that can be used from ½” down to a feathered edge.
- Chris Technical Services
Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 3:36 PM

Hello, I have an concrete area (about 16-20) square feet in front of my front entrance, which is sloping the wrong way and water collects in the corner instead of running off. I want to correct the slope. What products do you recommend?
- Nikolay Marinov
Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 1:42 PM

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